The Ultimate Guide to NIL Agencies: How to Pick The Right Partner For You

When the NCAA released its interim policy on NIL (name, image, and likeness) back in June of 2021, it marked a major shift in college athletics. 

For years, college athletes have been unfairly exploited. Although the NCAA generates more than $1 billion per year, the college athletes who help the organization earn such revenues have historically been barred from receiving their fair share. 

Sure, athletes at major universities have occasionally received compensation in the form of cash, services, or goods “under the table,” but these have largely been illegal transactions against NCAA guidelines. 

But with the new NIL rules, student-athletes can now make money on their own name, image, and likeness—meaning they can finally receive compensation for their status as an athlete. 

For the first time, we’re seeing college athletes cut major deals with major brands, and some athletes have already earned small fortunes. A few examples:

  • Bryce Young, Alabama Quarterback – This young athlete has already earned around $1 million through brand deals with companies like Subway, Cash App, and Logan’s Roadhouse. 
  • Olivia Dunne, LSU Gymnast – This LSU standout has more than 2 million followers on Instagram and more than 6 million followers on TikTok, and she’s leveraged these audiences into more than $1 million with brands like American Eagle, Vuori, and Planfuel. 
  • Zia Cooke, South Carolina Basketball Player – Zia has earned more than $1 million by cutting deals with brands like H&R Block, and her Instagram posts have been valued at $8,000 per post

These athletes are generating serious income with every deal they cut. 

And such income and opportunities require guidance from true professionals who can show these athletes show how to protect themselves, their personal brand, their newfound wealth, and other projects that come their way.

That’s where NIL agencies come in. An NIL agency can provide athletes with the guidance and resources necessary for successful NIL deals! 

Table of Contents

What Is NIL?
What Is An NIL Agency?
What Does An NIL Agency Do? 
How Can An NIL Agency Help You Make Money?
Services An NIL Agency Can Provide
What Should You Think About When Picking An NIL Agency? 
Get NIL Support

What Is NIL?

NIL stands for Name, Image, and Likeness, and it refers to a college athlete’s ability to use their personal brand for financial compensation. 

The NCAA’s NIL policy contains three important sections: 

  1. Athletes can engage in NIL activities if they follow their state’s laws where their school is located. Schools must ensure these activities comply with state law.
  2. Athletes in states without NIL laws can still participate in NIL activities without breaking NCAA rules.
  3. Athletes are allowed to seek professional service providers for their NIL activities.

As long as athletes are in compliance with NCAA rules, they can earn as much as they possibly can from their status while in high school—a huge transition from what we’ve seen in the past! 

What Is An NIL Agency?

An NIL agency is an organization that helps college athletes protect themselves and their best interests while securing new business agreements and brand deals that comply with NCAA and university regulations. 

In simple terms: An NIL agency helps athletes leverage their own name, image, and likeness to secure new income streams without violating NCAA rules. 

What Does An NIL Agency Do?

An NIL agency provides support to college athletes by negotiating and securing new deals, monitoring regulations and regulatory updates to ensure compliance, and protects their clients’ best interests. 

How Can An NIL Agency Help You Make Money?

Your NIL agency can help you make money through a variety of engagements and brand deals. Some of the most common ways athletes make money through NIL include:

  • Autographs and memorabilia. Signing jerseys, sports gear, and other items can lead to small but steady revenue streams for college athletes. 
  • Appearances or working at sports camps. Working at a weekend or summer camp can eat up time in your schedule, but charging for your knowledge and teaching ability can lead to big financial wins.
  • Personal appearances. If you have enough popularity, appearing at events like movie premieres or fundraisers can lead to nice checks for your bank account. 
  • Brand affiliate or sponsor roles. This is one of the most popular options for athletes because they can help enhance your personal brand while earning greater revenue. By showing up in a Subway commercial, for example, you can get your face in front of more people while earning a nice check. 
  • Podcasting. Using your platform to start a podcast gives you a property to sell ad space—which can lead to a healthy revenue stream. 
  • Music and art. If you’re interested in music or visual arts, you can use your platform to sell your work on a regular basis. Plus, many professional athletes (like Damian Lillard) have already shown that athletes can make the jump from sports to arts. 

Services An NIL Agency Can Provide

Every NIL agency is different, so the exact services you’ll find from one agency to the next may vary. In general, though, the services an NIL provides may include:

1. Contract Support

Working with brands requires understanding a wide variety of guidelines, including the type of content you can create, how you create and publish content, and what rights you have to the content created with your involvement. 

Your contracts could even contain clauses about who you’re allowed to work with!

Your NIL agency should review contracts on your behalf and identify potential issues. If issues are spotted, your agency representative should review them with you, then negotiate on your behalf to secure a better deal (if the agreement is indeed worth pursuing). 

2. Marketing & PR

In a world of Name, Image, and Likeness agreements, your personal brand is your business. 

Like any other business, your personal brand needs solid marketing and PR to be successful. 

Your NIL agency may:

  • Help develop your personal brand
  • Provide guidelines on how to promote you
  • Market you to other companies and brands 
  • Produce content on your behalf, including social media content, personal website, and other content
  • Source speaking engagements and interviews

In some cases, you probably won’t see the work that goes into this part, as many conversations could happen without your involvement. Once a deal is ready to be made, however, you’ll have much more insight into how the marketing and PR portion works. 

3. Financial Education & Management

If you’re an athlete taking advantage of the new NIL laws, you could secure deals that earn you much more money than you’ve ever made during an internship or summer job. 

With such a major increase in income, you should have a strong understanding of:

  • What you should do with the money you earn
  • How to save for the future
  • Your investment options
  • Your investment opportunities
  • What you can realistically afford in the near future (Example: Earning a $10,000 brand deal doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford to buy a new car tomorrow.)

In simple terms, your NIL agency should help you earn as much as possible and then help you turn your money into more money! 

4. Travel Accommodations

NIL deals may require traveling around the country (or even the world) to complete meetings or fulfill contractual obligations. 

Your NIL agency should lend support on all travel fronts, including airline tickets, on-ground transportation (like Ubers and taxis), hotels, and restaurants. 

5. NCAA Compliance

NCAA rules are tricky, and the guidelines you must follow depend on the state where your school is located. 

Your NIL agency should have a clear understanding of applicable rules and help you remain in compliance! 

What Should You Think About When Picking An NIL Agency?

Not all NIL agencies are the same. Here’s what you should think about when picking an NIL agency: 

  • Location. Where is the agency located? Do they understand your region, the major brands within that region, and the culture that has helped to shape your identity? 
  • Size. How big is the agency? Although size isn’t everything, you want to know that they have the resources and manpower to successfully help you achieve your long-term goals. 
  • Resources. Do they have the in-house talent and knowledge necessary to achieve your goals? Do they have access to the right tools and organizations?
  • Connections. Is your agency connected with the right people and organizations? Do they have existing relationships with universities, brands, and founders who could be instrumental in negotiating new deals? 
  • Portfolio. Who has the agency worked with in the past? What deals have they negotiated? You want your agency to have a track record of success that can be applied to your name, image, and likeness!
  • Capabilities. What can the agency provide for you? How good are they in marketing, contract law, talent management, and travel accommodations?
  • Pricing. Your NIL agency should charge a fair price for their services—or you could seriously be taken advantage of. 

Finding an NIL agency that will look after your best interests is critical, as there are countless predatory businesses out there. Recently, NFL rookie Gervon Dexter grabbed headlines for a conflict with investment company Big League Advanced Fund. In 2022, Dexter accepted a one-time payment of $436,485 in exchange for 15% of his pre-tax NFL earnings for the next 25 years—which could total substantially more than that one-time payment!

Get NIL Support

If you’re interested in NIL support, contact us! We have deep connections and capabilities in marketing, and we can connect you with some of our trusted financial professionals, photographers, and other experts who can help elevate your personal brand!